Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

subject of complaint by moralists against the forensic profession; and a case which occurred a few months ago, Mr. D’Israeli's, lately revived the controversy. Most of our readers are doubtless familiar with the reasonings on this disputed topic, in the writings of Paley and Dimond. We shall not here enter into the question, as our object, in this article, is rather to suggest hints, and to trace an outline of the history and uses of the forensic profession, than attempt the impossible task of completing the subject within the limits of a review. We shall therefore content ourselves with saying, that whoever wilfully utters falsehood, whether at the bar or not, whether wearing an advocate's gown or a priest's surplice, or walking in plain broad-cloth, is a degraded and immoral being; but that the great purposes of human society require and justify the urging of a line of argument, or of professional learning, by a body of men known to be addressing their judge only for the purpose of suggesting views to his understanding. The noble passage in which Lord Erskine vindicated his defence of Paine for publishing the “Rights of Man,” and which cost him the attorney-generalship to the Prince of Wales, is as true as it is eloquent and brave. . From the moment that any advocate can be permitted to say that he will or will not stand between the crown and the subject arraigned in the court where he daily sits to practise, from that moment the liberties of England are at an end. If the advocate refuses to defend, from what he may think of the charge or of the defence, he assumes the character of the judge, nay, he assumes it before the hour of judgment; and, in proportion to his rank and reputation, puts the heavy influence of perhaps a mistaken opinion into the scale against the accused, in whose favour the benevolent principle of English law makes every presumption, and which commands the very judge to be his counsel.”*

The union of qualities which should combine to make a consuminate advocate, has unquestionably been of rare occurrence in the history of man; but some of the most valuable, possessed in great perfection, will insure the distinguished reputation of their gifted owner. Such a limited endowment only has been vouchsafed to most of those who may justly challenge the admiration of posterity, as bright examples of the forensic genius. The requisition which Cicero has made, in the heat of his enthusiasm, but in passages themselves of resplendent eloquence, when describing a perfect orator, will cause an indifferent, and even an impartial inquirer, to smile at the exaggerated estimate of the human capabilities, which his absorbing pursuit of his favourite art induced him to form. He claims for his hero a knowledge of every art and every science, and universal endowments, physical, intellectual, and moral. Even the strong common sense of Quintilian has not prevented him from adopting the same view. But both those great masters of rhetoric, while they vindicate the propriety of their mode of instruction, by referring to the example of the sculptors of the Olympian Jupiter and the Coan Venus, who collected a concentrated essence of majesty and beauty, which never can be seen in the human form, nevertheless are compelled to admit that such a man as they describe never did and never will exist. We must therefore be contented, even according to the admission of these enthusiasts themselves, with more limited endowments for the most excellent of human orators; and must be satisfied with men inferior to Demosthenes, although Cicero says he is not, even with that glory of them all !

The English Bar has been distinguished by a long line of men whose skill in their profession, and especially whose legal knowledge, has, perhaps,

* Erskine's Speeches, vol. ii. p. 90.

never been surpassed by any similar body. About a century after the death of Bacon, it would seem from Lord Bolingbroke's complaint, in his “ Study of History *,” that the advocate of his day was nothing more, to use some of Tully's words, nisi leguleius quidam cautus, et acutus præco actionum, auceps syllabarum, cantor formularum. “ But there have been lawyers,” adds his lordship, “ that were orators, philosophers, historians. There have been Bacons and Clarendons. There will be none such any more, till, in some better age, true ambition and the love of fame prevail over avarice, and till men find leisure and encouragement to prepare themselves for the exercise of this profession, by climbing up to the vantage-ground of science, instead of grovelling all their lives below, in a mean but gainful application to all the low arts of chicane.” And he afterwards gives this direction to lawyers, ambitious of such fame as he has before held out to them ; viz. “ that they must pry into the recesses of the human heart, and become acquainted with the whole moral world, that they may discover the abstract reason of all laws.” And even Sir William Blackstone t, writing forty or fifty years afterwards, and not given over-much to finding fault with his own profession, after strongly objecting to the system of instruction for the Bar then in use, viz. of a limited attention to the mere practical details of the law, observes, that “if that infatuation should prevail to any considerable degree, we must rarely expect to see a gentleman of learning and distinction at the Bar. And what the consequence may be, to have the enforcement of our laws fall into the hands of obscure and illiterate men, is matter of very public concern." Probably neither of the men by whom, in fact, the Bar was rescued from this mere attention to technicalities, this formality of pleading, viz. Erskine and Curran,a person of the exact description which the learned commentator desired to see arise and vindicate the dignity of the Bar; but we, impartial bystanders, can easily see, from his complaint, that the advocates of that day were degenerating into mere formal pleaders, cantores formularum, and that those two great men did in fact animate the courts of justice with a spirit equally new and beneficial. And if the “enforcement of our laws" had been left to the judges of that day, and if their inclination to a despotic interpretation of those laws had not been stayed by the gigantic efforts of Erskine and Curran, we should probably have had to lament consequences more disastrous than even the destruction of the independence and genius of the Bar. They were equal to the great occasions which called for them and brought them forth. Nor need England ever despair of talents being found adequate to any exigency, which may demand even the highest. And from that period to the present there has been no cessation amongst us of the gift of forensic genius. Across the Channel we find the mingled logic and rhetoric of Plunkett, the chaste pathos of Bushe, and the powerful appeal to the jury of O'Connell; while, in England, we have had the wonderful talent for cross-examination of Garrow, the unrivalled tact of Scarlett, the elegant perspicuity of Lyndhurst, and the universal acquirements, the ever ready wit, and the withering sarcasm of Brougham.

Here, for the present, we pause. When we resume the subject, we shall examine the characteristic excellences of Erskine and Curran. Our object, in the present article, has been to present a summary, but we firmly believe a correct, history of the profession which they adorned. We have seen that it is an institution inseparably united to a free constitution of government; that it took its rise in free states; that it flourished in its fullest vigour

was

[blocks in formation]

during the zenith of those states ; that it has ever, by a fatal necessity, declined when such states have lost their high moral tone; and, in short, that it flourishes or decays with public liberty. Long may it continue to adorn and protect the British constitution - its strongest bulwark the last, but the secure stronghold of the people, when their parliaments have betrayed them, and their press has been awed into silence — their firm hope for the preservation of freedom in dark hours and troubled times, when the courage of the advocate is the only shield left to interpose between the vengeance of the crown and the oppression of the subject !

PHYSIOLOGY OF MIND.

To the Editor of the Monthly Chronicle. SIR, — The point of view in which you placed some inquiries of mine, which formed the subject of an article in your Fourteenth Number, gave them a value which they had not before possessed in the eyes of their author.

But if you have tempted me to prosecute those considerations farther, I have some ground for hoping to find a place in your Journal for thoughts thus elicited, which will indeed be more likely to produce their desired effect under your cover, than under the protection of my own name.

I have endeavoured, in my “ Pathology of the Human Mind,” at once to widen and to give greater definiteness to the grounds on which this important subject should be discussed. Without inconveniently disturbing the use of language, I could not give to the word insanity, or any of its numerous synonyms or heads, a sufficiently extensive signification to cover all those states under which the mind must be treated as morbid. Neither would that broader view of the subject, which should class mental disease under the heads of Insanity and Idiocy, answer to my supposition of the real extent of mental disease. A form of aberration was left unprovided for by this division, of great magnitude and importance: this was of a moral kind. It is true that experienced physicians had suggested the existence of moral phenomena as occurring in the course of insanity; but the fact pressed upon my mind, that there exists a state of the moral department absolutely independent of insanity or idiocy, and yet as fit a subject of treatment, in being distinct in kind from the healthy condition of the human mind, as either of these.

For this state I have provided a philosophical place, and a name, though an uncouth one.

If I could establish its claims to being made the subject of deliberate attention, during those years of human life in which it is curable, or capable of being antagonised, how large a series of blighted prospects, and of broken hearts, might haply be saved to society!

In these points of view, my division of mental disease is threefold. One head of it embraces Insanity, properly so called ; another head is designated Idiocy; and for the third I can find no better name than Brutality,

It is no part of my intention to trouble you with a defence of the above classification, which, in fact, no one has taken the trouble to assail, nor

indeed of any other points in the work alluded to, which may lay claim to novelty; but I am desirous to furnish some of your readers with inducements to prosecute this kind of inquiry more widely into the regions of mind, and in some measure, perhaps, to facilitate their progress.

The tide of modern inquiry is not ethical ; it is not metaphysical. It does not regard either the head or the heart as objects of steady research; and yet these terms express the central point from which all operations commence, according to the right or wrong constitution of which every other research must be well or ill conducted. I have endeavoured to illustrate the pathology of mind, that is, the history of its morbid states; a topic which naturally suggests the question, with what degree of success the same work has hitherto been effected for its physiology. Both these words I would be understood as using analogically to their meaning in regard to bodily states. When, in the latter sense, we talk of pathology, we allude, not to the ultimate composition of parts, but to their practical arrangement and uses, as affected by disease. Physiology regards the healthy state of parts in the same practical sense. And thus the physiology of the human mind would be studied, not in Locke or Berkeley, but in Bacon's Essays, in those of Foster, in Butler's Discourses, in some degree in Dr. Brown, and in a great degree in Dugald Stewart's “ Moral Outlines,” and corresponding lectures.

Splendid materials undoubtedly exist in these and many other works, but more is wanted; and, above all, a spirit is wanted fully aware of the extreme difficulty of effecting a practical arrangement and division of this subject, and of the aids required for this purpose.

But at a period at which physical science offers such splendid examples of successful exertion, it is difficult to tempt minds into this pursuit. Progress made in ethical or metaphysical inquiry is not easily tested or made good. Mystification is easily practised, and a degree of indefiniteness is scarcely avoidable, which makes our claims to discoveries vague and uncertain. Neither am I prepared to admit, on Mr. Dugald Stewart's authority, that the metaphysician wields equal power over his observations with that which the natural philosopher possesses over his experiments.

Still much might be achieved; and of the roads into this subject as yet insufficiently explored, I would suggest one as offering peculiar advantages ; that, namely, which lies through an investigation of the structural phenomena coexistent with mental operations. If, in every process of thought, of moral preference, and of emotion, some corresponding change takes place in our organised structure; if, further, we have reason to believe that a change in this organised structure may even originate mental states of the above kind, it surely may be presumed that a systematic inquiry into these corresponding changes is essential to our acquaintance with the laws of thought, of emotion, and of moral preference.

What might not the curtain thus drawn up disclose! and how great would be the influence of this systematic procedure, in clearing up the real grounds of action and passion! A given individual undertakes a scheme, because, as he thinks, his understanding is convinced of its expediency. But how bas he obtained this conviction? He has been to Brighton, or to Cheltenham, and his liver tells him that he will succeed. Some weeks afterwards he lays his scheme aside. Why? because his liver now tells him that he has no chance of success. Yet this person was not in a diseased state of mind under either of these suppositions, unless we compel the word disease to embrace the average condition of mankind. But if this is the normal condition of the human mind, in relation to its material

А

appendages, who, that is unacquainted with their influences, can be a metaphysician? I am well aware that these truths, unduly appreciated, may sanction a notion of irresponsible and necessary conduct. But this is their abuse. We are entrusted with moral and intellectual powers, by which we can contemplate this occasional subjection of our moral to our physical constitution, and, if we please, avert it.

The following case may not be uninteresting, in reference to the preceding remarks.

young gentleman aged twenty, being the son of an opulent and noble family, and having chosen the army for his profession, was naturally inclined by his age, his fondness for amusement, and his profession, to engage in those pursuits which involve active exertion of the body, and some exposure to danger. But it was observed that he engaged in hunting in a less adventurous way than might be expected under the above circumstances. This and some other points of timidity were mentioned to me, during an attendance upon him, by one who wisely considered that they might have some bearing on his general health. His friend was right; for there were points in his case, which would make a given exertion of activity, under circumstances of risk, considerably more difficult to him than to the average of his companions. My medical readers will appreciate this fact, when I state to them that his heart beat over a large surface of his chest; that it was highly audible on the right side, without any supposition of pulmonary disease; and that the quality of the systolic impulse, without being strong, was sharp and violent; in short, that hypertrophy, with dilatation of the heart, were in his case not improbable phenomena. I do not say that the difficulty which this imposed on excitement and exertion quenched the adventurous spirit of this young man's mind; but I do say, that it must have made courage a virtue of difficult exercise to him; and that the existence of this series of phenomena formed an important item in the account of suggestions either to be made or to be avoided on the regulation of his conduct. Now, the case of this young gentleman is precisely that of many an unfortunate boy, who is sent to be hardened at a public school, under physical circumstances which must make the “hardening” process destructive of his health, and calculated to defeat its own purpose.

It is very easy to detect imperfections in the system of the craniologists: but I confess extreme surprise at the averseness with which its general principles were met by philosophers at their first promulgation. Whatever faults, either of system or of execution, inquiry might have traced in it, I conceive it deserved a very different initiatory hearing; for it professed to fill up a chasm in our inquiries into mind of inestimable importance. The operations of feeling and thought are fugitive and hard to fix; they want an alliance with substance. Gall professed to give them this alliance : it had long been observed that they hold a mysterious relation to our bodily system; Gall professed to clear it up: yet, strange to say, at the instant a feeling against his system sprung up, which could not have been stronger, if his system, instead of proposing for solution the most valuable question which could be superadded to the previous pursuits of ethics, had been founded upon, as well as had seemed to proceed into, delusive views.

Had, however, Dr. Gall never written or never investigated, the extreme importance of the subject, which he takes in hand, would have remained unaltered. It would still have been true, that the phenomena of the material structure are likely to afford important light to the immaterial properties of which it is the organ. In whatever way the diversity of mental functions, , clearly coexistent with unity in the mind-itself, may have been arranged by

« ZurückWeiter »